How do we calculate the value of a medicine?
How do we calculate the value of the smile of a child who doesn’t have to feel the pain of cancer?
What is the value of giving a grandfather with congestive heart failure the energy to go fishing with his grandson?
You can not put a value on such things. We can however in some ways quantify the value of medicines to patients, to society and to the healthcare system. We can count the number of years it adds to a person’s life, we can look at whether the medicine enables the person to work, or live independently, or simply enjoy life more, we can calculate the money saved when a medicine helps a patient avoid surgery, hospitalisation or admission to a nursing home.
The timely use of medicines in Ireland has:
- Helped to improve life expectancy by over a third in the last seventy years, from 57 in 1925 to 81 today.
- Helped thousands of Irish patients with Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, ulcers, cancer, diabetes and mental illness to lead better and more normal lives, easing the burden on care-givers and delaying or avoiding costly long-term nursing care.
- Contributed to reducing the number of deaths from heart disease and stroke by nearly a half – the number one cause of death in Ireland.
- Reduced the rate of death for heart attack patients in hospitals by nearly 45% and the rate of subsequent heart attacks in a period of six months following initial treatment by 60%.
- Assisted in the reduction of the average length of hospital stay from 9.6 days in 1981 to 6.3 days today.
The fact is that spending on medicines translates into overall cost savings for healthcare systems, keeping employees healthy and productive in society. Their cost must be set against the benefits if the debate is to be balanced and help achieve the outcome every person wants – to improve the health of the nation and create a cost effective healthcare system.